By Mike Rowbottom

Mah Drysdale_05-03-12March 5 - New Zealand has selected its largest ever Olympic rowing team for London 2012, and with nine world champions in the squad there are realistic expectations of rich rewards at the Eton Dorney course.

Rowing New Zealand has named 26 rowers and 11 boats for London, with the proviso of adding two more boats and another 13 crew members should they come through a pre-Olympic qualifying regatta.

Mahé Drysdale (pictured) will be seeking gold in the single scull after his bronze at the Beijing 2008 Games, where he fell ill before the final, while the three-times world champion men's pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, who have frustrated the British pair of Pete Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge at every turn, will seek their first Olympic gold having been part of the men's four that failed to make the final in Beijing, where Reed and Triggs Hodge were in the gold medal four.

"We've just been training away as hard as possible," said Murray.

"Now we just need to take a minute and refocus on where we are heading and how we want to get there and focus on that for the next 20 weeks' training to make sure that we do improve so that when we do get to the Olympics we'll be in the best shape possible."

Other world champions named include Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown in the women's pair and Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan in the men's double sculls.

There was less certainty about the announcement for lightweight sculler Julia Edward, who will contest her first Olympics in the double with Louise Ayling.

Lucy Strack_and_Louise_Ayling_05-03-12
While Ayling (pictured right) qualified the boat for the Olympics at last year's World Championships in Slovenia, winning with Lucy Strack (left), Edward has pressed her claim to get into the boat by winning the single sculls at the recent national championships.

More impressive work with Ayling at the trials in the past week confirmed the selectors' decision to put her in the boat at the expense of the unfortunate Strack.

The 2009 world champions Storm Uru and Peter Taylor will compete in the men's lightweight double scull.

Emma Twigg, world bronze medallist in 2010 and 2011, is selected for the women's single scull, while Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer, bronze medallists in Slovenia last year, will remain in the double scull, the boat with which New Zealand won Olympic gold at the last two Games.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]